London, Ont. 'dabke' dance group performs for rapper Drake's birthday
A Middle Eastern 'dabke' dance group landed a gig of a lifetime when they were asked to perform at a birthday bash for a multi-platinum, award-winning artist in Toronto.
“I was just like 'Oh my God, this is insane,'” Omar Hassouneh says as he recalls his reaction when he found out he’d be performing for a high-profile celebrity.
Omar is a member of the Palestinian-Canadian Al-Asala Dabke Group based in London, Ont..
The group was is well-known for performing traditional Arab Dabkeh and Zaffeh, a combination of singing and drumming, at large events and weddings.
Last weekend, five of their members had the chance to showcase their talent at a private birthday party for Canadian rapper Drake.
The group was contacted and booked through Instagram to perform at Drake’s home in Toronto.
“So we walk in and we all kind of got shook for a second, we just stood there, and we said well Drake is right in front us, let’s try to remember what we came up with and so we performed right there, in his kitchen in his house,” said Hassouneh.
"It was pretty awesome, he was a very genuine and humble guy,” said group member Wasef Yasin.
Although this was their first celebrity gig, the Al-Asala Dabke Group, which has more than 25 members, has been performing various events and weddings for the past 14 years.
“It’s been passed down through different generations of guys -- and now it’s us, it’s our time to shine,” said Al-Asala Dabke Group Manager Omar Barzak.
And shine they did. The video of their performance for ‘Champagne Papi’s’ 35th birthday went viral on social media, with over 3.9-million views on TikTok.
“It was really awesome to meet him, especially growing up we all listened to his music. I still remember walking to school just and jamming out to Drake, and being able to actually meet him and sing him happy birthday -- it was just an amazing experience,” said Yasin.
Although most of the group members grew up in Canada, they enjoy going back to their Arab roots and mixing the two cultures together in some of their performances.
“We like to do it with a little bit of a twist, we like to mesh both cultures together and almost, you know, create a new culture. That North American-Arab identity, which we love, and it’s something that we love expressing,” said Yasin.